Zvamaida Murwira Senior Reporter
Government has allocated $195,5 billion for devolution for next year, up from $16,7 billion this year as more funding continues to be earmarked for the Second Republic’s decentralisation agenda to empower communities and ensure equitable distribution of resources.
Devolution is enshrined in the 2013 Constitution, but its implementation began in earnest with the coming in of the Second Republic under President Mnangagwa when growing sums were budgeted to top up the funds local authorities raise themselves to fund essential infrastructure in their areas.
The Second Republic is scaling up the devolution thrust consistent with President Mnangagwa’s mantra of leaving no one and no place behind.
The additional funding was announced by Finance and Economic Development Minister Mthuli Ncube on Thursday while delivering the 2023 National Budget in the new Parliament building in Mount Hampden.
“The year 2023 marks the fourth year since the Central Government started allocating at least 5 percent of revenue collections as inter-governmental fiscal transfers to lower tiers of Government as enshrined in the Constitution. To this effect, disbursements to lower tiers of Government are bearing positive fruits as evidenced by a greater number of high impactful completed and ongoing developmental projects and programmes in various sectors,” said Minister Ncube.
“During 2022, resources amounting to $16,7 billion have so far been disbursed mainly towards acquiring of road construction and fire-fighting equipment, refuse collection, trucks, completion of ongoing infrastructure projects in sectors such as health, education, water and sanitation and roads, among others. The 2023 National Budget is ring fencing $195,5 billion being 5 percent of the anticipated revenue resources towards lower tiers of Government in support towards construction, upgrading and rehabilitation of facilities in health, transport, education, water and sanitation, as well as procurement of plant and equipment by local authorities.”
He said the over pricing of goods and services impacted the devolution programme hence the need to come up with requisite policies and legal framework to curb the abuse.
“The overpricing of goods and services by contractors did not spare the devolution programme, thereby affecting its smooth implementation. Currently, Government is in the process of developing the requisite policy, regulatory and institutional frameworks necessary to fully operationalise and entrench the implementation of the devolution agenda. This initiative will also ensure accountability and transparency in the utilisation of the fiscal grant,” he said.
Minister Ncube said there was need for local authorities to regularly value their properties and assets after every 10 years for rating purposes as provided for by the law in line with the Urban Councils Act and the Rural District Council Act.
“Most local authorities have, however, not undertaken the valuation exercise within the stipulated 10-year period, save for a few such as Mutare City Council, due to limited resources,” he said.
“Valuation of the properties and updating of the council data base is critical in ascertaining their market values to enable the collection of optimal property rates and other user charges. This will allow local authorities to collect more revenues, that can be channelled towards development of the communities within their jurisdiction. To support this important exercise, local authorities are being allowed to utilise up to 10 percent of their devolution allocations for 2023 towards property valuation exercise.”
Urban Council Association of Zimbabwe chairperson Councillor Abel Matsika commended the Government for continued support of local authorities through devolution.
He said the support had helped in keeping council rates for residents low.
“As UCAZ, we appreciate the commitment Government led by President Mnangagwa is making in improving the lives of ordinary people. We have a lot of projects that as local authorities are carrying out and the money will go a long way in completing these projects. Devolution funds have eased financial burden on ratepayers because we have managed to contain rates because of the funds,” said Clr Matsika who is also Karoi town council chairperson.
He however called for the speed passage of the enabling legislation on devolution to give proper direction saying there was no uniformity in the utilisation of the funds owing to absence of the legal framework.
Association of Rural District Council chairperson, Mr David Mutasa, said the money will help to complete unfinished projects.
“We are excited with the allocation in that the money will go a long way in completing projects. There are a number of projects that were started that are still hanging, unfinished and the devolution most of our challenges,” said Mr Mutasa.
Mr Washington Muderere from Kambuzuma in Harare, welcomed the additional funds for devolution saying they will improve infrastructure across the country.
“I think this is a great move by the Government because if you look at Harare, there is virtually nothing going and we have seen some development from the time Government provided funds.
“Devolution funds must continue for the foreseeable future for us to attain the upper middle income society status by 2030,” said Mr Muderere.
Ms Fortunate Gwatiringa of Epworth said without devolution funds, Zimbabwe will not develop especially in urban areas where opposition councillors are only determined to loot whatever little remains.
Consistent with the desire towards alignment of the devolution and decentralisation programme of the Second Republic, there will be amendments to the Provincial Councils and Administration Act, the Rural District Council’s Act, and the Regional, Town and Country Planning Act.
Ministers of State for Provincial Affairs have been tasked with championing development programmes in their provinces.